Military Aviation Museum SBD-5 Dauntless – Restoration Update – January, 2023

While the fuselage for the Military Aviation Museum's Dauntless arrived in Pungo, Virginia during February 2021, it has yet to make the journey to New Zealand for its restoration at Pioneer Aero Ltd. Even so, many of the project's components, including the outer wing panels, have already received significant attention. (image via MAM)
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


Back in early 2021, we reported that the Military Aviation Museum (MAM) had just acquired Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless Bu.36175 from the National Naval Aviation Museum, along with a significant cache of relevant parts from collector/restorer Kevin R. Smith. MAM contracted out the aircraft’s restoration, splitting the work between Aero Trader in Chino, California (which would rebuild the outer wing panels) and Pioneer Aero Ltd in Ardmore, New Zealand (which would do the rest). Since that time, not a lot of news has filtered through regarding progress, but MAM recently published an update and we thought readers would enjoy learning more…


The fuselage for the Military Aviation Museum’s Dauntless soon after its arrival in Pungo, Virginia. Unfortunately, this part of the project is still awaiting shipment to Pioneer Aero Ltd. in Ardmore, New Zealand, but that situation should change once the transportation issues are resolved. Pioneer has already been hard at work on the many Dauntless components they received in an earlier delivery however, and the wings are well under way with Aero Trader in Chino. (image via MAM)

It has been a while since our last Dauntless Update, and the eagle eyed among you have likely noticed that the fuselage is still awaiting transport here at the Museum (much to the frustration of the whole team!). The shipping challenges we have encountered have slowed the project down, preventing the fuselage from arriving in New Zealand on our anticipated schedule, but there is still exciting news coming in on the project.

The wings from Kermit Weeks’ Dauntless project at Aerotrader have been a valuable resource for setting up the jigs and manufacturing replacement parts for the set of Dauntless wings for the Military Aviation Museum’s example. (photo via Military Aviation Museum)

The wings from a donor aircraft have been under restoration at Aero Trader in California. Kermit Weeks was kind enough to lend his support with his wings (which are in better condition than ours). His wings are being used where patterns are needed, and to prepare the jigs, greatly accelerating the completion our wings. Both sets of wings are coming along and the Aerotrader team are currently working on finishing up the wingtips. They will also be completing the stabilizers in short order as well.

Similarly, the team at Pioneer Aero in New Zealand has received the first shipment of parts for the Dauntless, and they have begun work on the items that they are able to, including control surfaces for the airplane – but remain eager to receive the fuselage. They have also sorted the parts in the container into accessible storage after removing a few of the larger parts that were shipped over. The pictures above show the container being unloaded first at a bio containment facility where imports to New Zealand must be inspected, and then at the Pioneer Aero shop.

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